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web posted June 20, 1999

U.S. lawmakers reject making themselves recycle trash

The House of Representatives has rejected mandatory recycling for its offices.

The House has had a voluntary recycling program for a decade. But The Associated Press reported last month that most congressional offices were still mixing garbage, aluminum cans, bottles and different grades of paper. Many federal agencies and local governments separate their trash and sell recyclable material.

A provision that would have required House offices to begin recycling their trash was killed by the chamber on the night of June 10.

The language was struck from a $1.9 billion bill financing Congress' own operations next year after running into objections from Republicans.

The provision, sponsored by Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., would have made the program compulsory for all House offices and given money earned to the House's child care center. The Senate has no similar program.

The language was removed from the bill on a procedural challenge by Rep. Robert Ney, R-Ohio, who said it would have used a spending bill to change law. That is against House rules.

"You don't like it, you don't want to deal with recycling," Farr said on the floor after Ney voiced his objection.

In an interview, Ney said he objected to the plan because he opposes imposing requirements on House offices. He also said the House Administration Committee, of which he is a member, should have jurisdiction over such proposals.

Center-left coalition loses big in elections dominated by food crisis

Fed up with a center-left government mired in scandals, Belgian voters gave Conservatives dominance in parliament for the first time in more than a century.

With the landslide ending 12 years of rule by the center-left, Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene of the Christian Democrats blamed the latest scandal over food contamination by cancer-causing dioxin.

"It doesn't surprise me that the food crisis had such an impact," said Dehaene, Europe's longest-serving prime minister.

We have to change the way we govern. We have to learn to act before problems arise," said a triumphant Guy Verhofstadt, chairman of the Conservatives. The Conservatives last dominated parliament in 1884.

Dehaene's government, in power since 1991, had been on the defensive for most of its last four-year term because of scandals -- including the handling of a series of child sex murders and last year's brief escape of the main suspect in the case.

"It is a stunning blow and a deep disappointment," Dehaene, 58, said. "There is need for a change of generation."

Vote forecasts based on partial results from the June 13 vote showed the free-market Conservatives gaining two seats to surge to 41 in the 150 Chamber of Representatives. Dehaene's Christian Democrats dipped to 32, a stunning loss of 9 seats. His Socialist partners suffered almost as bad, losing seven seats to slump to 34.

The pro-environmental Greens almost doubled their seats to 20 -- making them potential coalition partners. The extreme right-wing Vlaams Blok in Dutch-speaking Flanders were expected to add two seats and rise to 13.

The devastating election results came two weeks after revelations that Belgian food had been contaminated by dioxin -- news that the government kept from the public for a full month.

PM defends Canada's tax rate as Irish host raves about cuts

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien wandered unarmed into the middle of the Irish "economic miracle" on June 14 and immediately found himself immersed in a debate over corporate tax rates in Canada.

After a morning meeting with Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, Chrétien listened uneasily as the Irish leader touted low corporate taxes as the tonic which had powered the phenomenal growth of an economy which has gone from basket case to juggernaut.

It put Chrétien and his officials on the defensive all day long and overshadowed an afternoon event during which the Prime Minister was feted again for a Canadian effort aimed at ending the strife in Northern Ireland.

Chrétien noted he and Ahern were both former ministers of finance, so they covered financial ground in their private chat.

"The success of our economy is that we have improved our competitiveness," Ahern said. "We have an attractive tax rate and have put an enormous amount of resources into education."

Chrétien and International Trade Minister Sergio Marchi were left to defend Canadian corporate tax rates, which average 38 per cent compared to the Irish rate of 14 per cent.

Foreign companies which locate in Ireland are taxed at only 10 per cent.

Critics have said that results in an Irish high-tech "brain gain" while the Chrétien government is presiding over a "brain drain."

The Prime Minister has labeled the outflow of highly skilled Canadian workers a "myth."

"We have cut taxes in the past two budgets and we hope to cut them in the next budget," he said. "We decided to balance the books first.

"Borrowing money to cut taxes was not, in my judgment, a very good recipe. (Ahern) has a balanced budget and he's operating in a surplus like Canada.

"When you're in a surplus, you can cut taxes - exactly what we have started to do in Canada and we intend to do that."

Marchi said investors seeking to locate in Canada will find corporate rates "in the zone.

"On the personal income tax side there is a need to continue what we started."

Unemployment in Ireland has plunged to 6 per cent from 18 per cent over the past 10 years. The country's gross domestic product is galloping at a rate of 8 per cent in each of the past two years.

"Effectively we have doubled the economy of this country in the past 12 years," Ahern said.

Teacher reprimanded for tearing up student's `pornography'

A fourth-grade student in Panama City, Florida was reading a magazine when his teacher, Wanda Nelson, grabbed it, called it "pornography," ripped up the offending pages and threw them in a trash can.

The magazine was National Geographic, and the pornography was an article on evolution that included drawings of naked humans.

On June 15, the Cherry Street Elementary School teacher received a written reprimand for "inappropriate action."

But the school superintendent did not believe censorship was an issue.

Bay County School Superintendent Larry Bolinger said he supported the teacher's right to stop what she considered a disruption, but said she crossed the line when she damaged the magazine.

Sebastian Allen, 10, had taken his older brother's magazine, a rare collector's issue, to school after Ms. Nelson had encouraged students to bring reading material from home in case they completed a state assessment test before time ran out.

Bush says Americans seek president who will treat 'office with respect'

Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the leading Republican presidential candidate for 2000, said on June 15 that America is "hungry for someone to treat the office with respect" -- and he described Al Gore as the candidate who might appeal to those who are "happy with what's happening in Washington."

Bush, who wrapped up his first presidential campaign trip through the early caucus-primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire, told CNN in an interview that he favors some forms of gun control and is pro-life on the abortion issue.

He said that he is now in the race for the "long haul."

"I have a reason to run, though. I have a purpose."

On his way back home, Bush was asked by CNN's Candy Crowley to describe the difference between him and Vice President Gore, the leading Democrat candidate. Bush, son of former president George Bush, said, "He's the status quo."

"If (voters) like the status quo, if they're happy with what's happening in Washington," Gore is the one they should vote for, he said.

By contrast, Bush said, "I say what I believe. And if people like it, I hope they'll vote for me."

"I think it's important for a president to have a vision of the world that recognizes that it's America's moment. America must seize the moment, promote the peace in the world," he said.

"People are starved for something. They're looking for something different. They're hungry for leadership. They're hungry for someone to treat the office with respect," he added.

On gun control, Bush said background checks on those seeking to buy guns are "the most practical, sure way to make sure that someone who purchases a gun is not a felon."

He said child safety locks are "fine" but "the question is how do you encourage people to use them."

"I think the thing on gun control that's really important for people to remember is the most effective gun control, in my mind, is to punish people who commit crimes with guns," Bush said.

Under tough questioning about abortion, Bush said:

"I'm pro-life. I believe in the value of life. I've been a pro-life governor ever since I've been elected. I believe ... that we ought to have laws that reduce the number of abortions."

He added: "It seems like to me we need a leader to bring people to understand the importance of banning partial birth abortion, having parental notification laws, not spending taxpayer money on abortion."

Gore launches presidential campaign

Vice President Al Gore officially launched his campaign for president on June 16 in his home state, promising to make America's families the centerpiece of his effort to win the presidency.

Gore reminded the crowd of about 8 000 gathered to see a native son take the first ceremonial step in a run for the nation's highest office that the economy has entered a period of robust growth since he took office as vice president but that attention now needs to focus on strengthening the American family.

"If you entrust me with the presidency, I will marshal its authority, its resources and its moral leadership to fight for America's families," he said. "With your help, I will take my own values of faith and family to the presidency to build an America that is not only better off but better. And that is why today I announce that I am a candidate for president of the United States."

"Seven years ago, we needed to put America back to work -- and we did," the vice president said. "Now we must build on that foundation. We must make family life work in America."

Gore was introduced by his oldest daughter, Karenna Gore Schiff, who is pregnant with Gore's first grandchild. He was supposed to be introduced by his wife, Tipper, but she lost her voice. Gore's entire family was on hand for the occasion, including his 87-year-old mother.

The vice president's announcement tour had been carefully scripted, designed to highlight issues like the nation's robust economy, health care, crime control and education -- issues his advisers feel will play to his advantage against Republicans, especially in the competition for suburban women and other critical voting blocs.

But the theme was clearly the family. Nearly every issue Gore mentioned was in the context of the family, from strengthening the Family and Medical Leave Act to protecting the environment. Instead of budget deficits, Gore said there are new deficits in American life.

"These are our deficits now: the time deficit in family life, the decency deficit in our common culture; the care deficit for our little ones and our elderly parents. Our families are loving but over-stretched," he said.

He promised that he would protect Medicare, never privatize Social Security, raise the minimum wage and protect a woman's right to have an abortion, saying "some try to duck the issue of choice. Not me."

He also said he would push for more action to curb gun violence and work against "a culture of violence and mayhem" in the entertainment industry.

On the economy, he noted that instead of large deficits, the nation is now enjoying a large surplus due to policies implemented during the Clinton-Gore Administration and he promised to continue those efforts.

"I will balance the budget or better, every year," he said. "I will search out every last dime of waste and bureaucratic excess. I know how to do that."

He promised "revolutionary improvement" to the nation's public schools, including with "high-quality preschool available to every child," reducing class sizes and making it easier for parents to save for college tuition, tax free and inflation-free.

A half dozen AIDS protesters briefly interrupted the carefully scripted ceremony before they were ushered out by security. Their shouting briefly overwhelmed Gore's voice on live TV, who paused briefly, said "I love free speech" and continued with his address. The protesters were barely heard by most in the crowd.

Anti-capitalism protesters cause havoc in London

Thousands of demonstrators attacked police in central London on June 18 with bottles, bricks and cement blocks and damaged a McDonald's restaurant during a protest against capitalism.

One woman was injured when a police van reversed into her, police said.

About 4 000 demonstrators targeted financial institutions throughout London as part of the "Carnival Against Capitalism." The protest was timed to coincide with the meeting of the Group of Eight nations in Cologne, Germany.

A police spokesman said three police vans came under attack and were ordered to withdraw.

"They were reversing slowly out of the crowd and it is thought that a female demonstrator climbed on the back of one of the vans and then fell off and went under the vehicle," the spokesman said, speaking with anonymity.

He said the woman, who was not named, suffered a concussion and was taken to the Royal London Hospital for treatment.

There were no further reports of injuries or arrests, the spokesman said.

Earlier, demonstrators wearing masks broke into a McDonald's restaurant, throwing glass bottles through the windows. Riot police with shields and batons cordoned off the area. Some demonstrators had also chained themselves inside Lloyd's Bank.

The police spokesman said the demonstrators had started to disperse by the evening.

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